Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Selects Firm From Alliant Energy Center to Coordinate Zoo Concessions, Attractions

March 22, 2019
Ariana Vruwink 608-267-8823
County Executive

New Partnership Links Two of Regions Attractions with Premier Food, Customer Service Vendor; County to Hire AZA Consultant to Advise on Best Practices


Centerplate, known for its work at Dane County's Alliant Energy Center (AEC), has reached an agreement to be the new partner assisting with attractions at the Henry Vilas Zoo. 


"We're incredibly excited by the opportunity to create a new synergy between the AEC and the county's other premier destination, the Henry Vilas Zoo," County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Centerplate has been a phenomenal partner in advancing upgrades to the AEC campus, providing significant financial support for expanded kitchen and food service work that will now also benefit Dane County's Zoo too.”


Centerplate will coordinate operations at the county owned Glacier Grille restaurant at the zoo along with the carousel, train and gift shop. County employees filling those roles between now and the time the Centerplate contract is approved will be considered for employment with Centerplate. Additionally, the partnership with the Alliant Energy Center will create new employment opportunities during the winter months. While the zoo generally has fewer visitors in winter, Centerplate operations are busy hosting events at the AEC during those months. Likewise, the zoo's busy season in summer coincides with a slower period for conventions at the AEC.


A resolution awarding the contract is before the County Board of Supervisors and will be reviewed in the coming weeks.


Representatives of Dane County met for nearly 7 hours this week with representatives of the Zoological Society to discuss the upcoming transition regarding coordination of on-grounds attractions. The county relayed to the President of the Society its intent to continue dialogue about a longer term partnership. The structure of what that relationship could look like will be informed by an independent consultant who’s done work for the AZA.  The Henry Vilas Zoo is in the process of hiring this individual. This consultant will advise the zoo on national best practices for the most effective partnerships between zoos and groups that support them. Those recommendations will inform this summer’s request for proposals in which the county will seek ideas from potential fundraising partners.